Friday, June 13, 2014

Our trip to the Fatherland starts with a very, very boring delay. Read on if you really have nothing better to do. Unfortunately, at present I don't and am at a bloody loose end for the next seven hours. And then there’s ‘bitcoins: what the bloody hell are ‘bitcoins’?

Well, what should have been a joyous occasion, a triumphal entry into Germany via Düsseldorf airport, and then a brief two-hour journey up the motorway to a neck of woods in North-West Germany that is more Dutch than German has become anything but. As I write (there’s bugger all else to do at the moment, as you will realise when you read on) my brother and I are mooching around Gatwick airport doing nothing more exciting the killing time.

We were due to fly out at 6.15 this morning. I had booked all the tickets, booked us into a car partk, checked us in online and printed the boarding passes and we were up by 4 to take off at 4.30 for the one-hour drive from Earls Court where he lives to Gatwick.

So far not one hitch. The first hitch, in retrospect and in the overall scheme of things the briefest of hitches, although it didn’t seem like that at the time, was my brother breezed through security with no bother, but they decided my case needed full investigation. Perhaps they were searching for illegal emigrants, I don’t know. But what I do know is that it delayed us by about 15 minutes and when we hurried through to Gate 45A and arrived with barely five minutes to spare until take-off, Gate 45A was deserted and a distinctly unhelpful easyjet employee (rather pretty, but that cuts no ice under the circumstances) informed us with a complete lack of sympathy that we had missed the flight. I pointed out that the flight wasn’t due to take off for another five minutes, to which she pointed out that the ‘gate closed’ 30 minutes before take-off at 5.45.

That’s, of course, strictly true, but given that no flight in the history of aviation has ever taken off on time and given that a few years ago I similarly arrived late for a flight but as I had only cabin luggage (as we did this time) and was let on with minutes to spare, I feel easyjet might have shown similar consideration. But they didn’t. I didn’t bother bitching and arguing, and given that I can bitch and argue and be rude for Britain if and when I put my mind to it, that was and is notable (and thus duly noted).

There was, to be frank, no point at all and although I don’t mind making a scene if there is a good reason for making a scene – in this case still being allowed on the plane – in this case there was absolutely no chance that would happen. I was also aware that it was wholly my fault, that had I been a little more diligent in planning

A dedicated an award-winning security bod examines one passenger
for a possible bomb and shows how it should be done. It is selfless folk such as him which keep our country safe, but also make people
like me miss our flights

it all, we could easily have left 30 minutes earlier and even with some officious security bod trying to track down in my suitcase what evil folk try to smuggle out of the country when they take off for a quite seven days in the back of the German beyond, we would have made it. So it was back to ‘landside’ – how quaint, but that’s apparently what they call it – to rebook. As it turned out easyjet were able to book us both on the next flight to Düsseldorf, but that doesn’t leave until 3.45 and doesn’t get in until 6. And arriving at 6 on a Friday evening at Düsseldorf will ensure a fun few hours negotiating the Poet’s Day traffic of the Rhineland as we make our way north.

As it was my fault – I didn’t even try to excuse myself but simply apologised to my brother –  I have paid for his new ticket and have also just now bought him a ‘full English’ (he likes them, and although I do, too, I really can’t face any food before lunchtime). It has taken me about 15 minutes to write the above, and it is now 9.25. We have decided to check in as soon as possible so we can go through security (again) and wile away the last few hours exploring the duty free shops and looking at all the stuff which is way to expensive to buy.

Altogether now: Bollocks! But I only have myself to blame.

. . .

It’s long been a staple of attempts at humour for a writer to ramble on about an ‘old fogey like me is too old to learn new technology, ho, ho, ho’. Well, I am most certainly not young, but I like to think I am also not yet an old fogey. And I enjoy new developments in whatever and look forward with real curiosity to what might be around the corner (though it has to be said that 3D mobile printers which allow you to ‘build your own model of the Eiffel Tower’ and that kind of thing do strike me as essentially asinine and just another low attempt to get the punter to part with a few more of his hard-earned shekels). So please believe me that I am not looking for cheap laughs when I confess that the notion of ‘bitcoins’ has so far defeated me.

The odd thing is that there are aspects of it I do undersand. It’s just when I put together all those aspects I somehow lose the plot. I mention ‘bitcoins’ because a recent edition of an always interesting BBC Radio 4 called The Bottom Line hosted by the always engaging Evan Davis was all about bitcoins. I listened intently (and as I was listening to a podcast, I was able to rewind and listen again to those parts I didn’t get my head around the first time, though in this case it didn’t help much.)

For example, I get the idea of credit and thus credit cards. I get the idea of ‘money’, and the fiction behind it that if push comes to shove the Bank of England is obliged to present me with whatever were I to march in and demand they cash in my pounds doesn’t trouble me much, either. I even think, of think I think, I understand ‘quantatative easing’. Well, perhaps on a good day. But bitcoins? Where do they come from? In theory, there can be no leeway for fraud because, according to three guests on The Bottom Line accounts of who has bought what from whom for how many bitcoins are kept on several thousand volunteers’ computers around the world and each of those accounts would have to be amended to enable fraud. To that my response is ‘Up to a point, Lord Copper’. If crooks worldwide smell the chance of an easy buck, you can bet they will find some way of getting at it.

But that doesn’t have much to do with my inability to ‘get’ bitcoins, especially as it – they? – are a software program written by a Japanese guy who prefers to remain anonymous and who might not be one guy at all, but several all under the guise of the one guy.

NB Still at fucking Gatwick but this is being written an hour or two after the first part of this entry.

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